Posted by the Asbury Park Press
BY JOE ADELIZZI
LAKEWOOD " It was hard to miss Miles Hahn. His bushy black beard, his long straight black hair, his biker look and his all-black shirt and pants that were part of that look.
"He was intimidating, "said Jack Pontoriero, who had three sons wrestle during the heyday of Team Hammer, the name given to the Central Jersey Wrestling Club that Miles Hahn founded in 1987. "Until you talked to him. Then you saw the real Miles. "
Hahn, 52, died Wednesday at Jersey Shore Medical University Center, Neptune, of complications from diabetes.
His legacy will include two NCAA championships won by his son Damion, and a host of NJSIAA state titles won by club members.
He will be remembered for changing the face of wrestling at the Jersey Shore.
"Before he came along, we (Brick Memorial) were dominating wrestling, "said Tony Caravella, the long-time coach at Brick Memorial. "We had great coaches, and in many instances were able to out-coach a lot of teams we faced.
"But when Miles began Team Hammer, it became a place where kids from small schools were able to get the training they needed. When I look around and see where Shore Conference wrestling is today, I think of how he changed the way things were done. He got a lot of good kids and made them better because of the competition at his club. "
Miles Hahn was an NJSIAA district wrestling champion and star running back and linebacker his senior year (1971) at Howell High School. It was his only year as a wrestler. At Kansas' Bethany College, he stuck to football.
In 1987, when son Damion began showing an interest in wrestling, Miles Hahn got back into the mat game.
"Once Damion told me, "I want to wrestle,' that's when I started looking around, "said Miles Hahn in an interview back then.
"For me, he was a role model. Kids look up to Michael Jordan or Barry Sanders. For me, it was my dad, "said Damion Hahn, now an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota, where he won those two NCAA championships. "What he has taught me will make me a better person. We all miss him dearly. "
Damion and Miles' reputation grew quickly and wrestlers followed. The club quickly gained new members.
"Miles set new standards for kid wrestlers " from little tiny kids through college kids. He started sending kids to tournaments, "Pontoriero said. "He had Damion and the Worthy brothers (Mark and Maurice) and Doug (Withstandley). When you saw a kid with the Hammer singlet, it was intimidating, just like he was. "
But all agree that the beard and look were a facade.
"He was as nice a guy as you could be, "Pontoriero said.
Caravella said the reputation Miles built was as someone who loved kids.
"He never turned a kid down who wanted to wrestle, "Caravella said.
After Withstandley's father died, his mother brought him to Team Hammer.
"He (Miles) was a big teddy bear, "said Terry Withstandley, who watched her son win a state championship while at Jackson High School.
"Miles helped my son in so many ways, more than in just wrestling, but emotionally. It was a tough time for us after my husband passed away. Doug has always stayed in touch with Miles. "
Many of the state's top wrestlers, including state champions Mark and Maurice Worthy (Central), Damion Hahn (Lakewood) and Kevin Rucci (Eastern), were members. Like Withstandley, they all won state titles.
"Miles and Damion have been the two most influential people in my wrestling career. From high school to college and even when I was younger, "said Withstandley, now a senior at Purdue, where he is among the favorites to win a Big Ten championship this season. "I traveled every weekend with them. We had a special bond. He's been the best coach I've ever had. I've never bonded with any coach or person like I did with him. "
"His club started the trend, "Caravella said. "Vinny Santaniello (four-time Region VI champ at Brick Memorial) started his school and other clubs sprung up. But it goes back to Miles. "
If he had another love beyond wrestling it was his family, including his wife, Betty. He loved to have her on the back of his motorcycle, where he was an imposing sight pulling into Lakewood football games.
His daughter, DeAnne Hahn, is a track star at Lakewood High School. His other daughter, Dora, lives in Jackson with her husband Sylvester Green and their daughter Jayla Marie.
The Damiano Funeral Home, 191 Franklin Ave., Long Branch, is handling arrangements. Visitation will be Friday from 10 a.m. until noon and 1-3 p.m. The funeral service begins at 2 p.m.